Ahmedabad: The Ahmedabad Sessions Court here on Tuesday framed sedition charges against firebrand Patidar agitation spearhead Hardik Patel and two of his former associates in connection with alleged rioting after a massive Patel rally in Ahmedabad on August 25, 2015.
Sessions Judge D P Mahida framed the charges under Sections 124 (A) (sedition), 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) and others of the Indian Penal Code against Hardik Patel, 25, and his then close aides Dinesh Bambhaniya and Chirag Patel. All the three were out on bail in the sedition case filed by Ahmedabad crime branch in January, 2016.
Chirag Patel later joined the ruling BJP while Dinesh Bambhaniya quit the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, though never joined any political party.
The court fixed January 29, 2019, as the next date of hearing when the trial on the sedition charges against the trio would begin.
The Gujarat High Court had earlier dropped charges under IPC Section 121 (A) pertaining to "waging war against the state,a which could attract death penalty.
The framing of charges got delayed as Hardik Patel was not present in the court and was away to attend a social function. The court rejected his application for absence and threatened to issue an arrest warrant if he failed to turn up, prompting him to immediately reach the court. He was attending an OBC convention.
Dinesh was arrested in the morning and presented in the court as he had remained absent from the court several times in the past during hearings. Chirag Patel was duly present.
All the three unanimously pleaded not-guilty against the charges framed.
According to the chargesheet, Hardik and his aides, who were part of the PAAS then, were allegedly involved in inciting the Patel community youths to resort to violence as part of their conspiracy to put undue pressure on the government to accept their demand of reservation to their community under the OBC category.
Going by the allegations, inflammatory messages and rumours were spread by the accused and resulted in large-scale riots across Gujarat, which forced the police to impose curfew in several parts, as people resorted to stone pelting, arson and damaging public property for almost four days, the charge-sheet alleged.
The chargesheet claimed that the police was forced to open fire at different places in which 14 Patel youths were killed.
The police also attached call detail records, transcripts of calls intercepted, CDs containing video and audio clips, forensic reports of mobile phones of Patel leaders, Hardik's speech at the mega rally and statements of 502 witnesses.
Meanwhile, the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Alpesh Kathiriya, a close aide of Hardik Patel, in the Ahmedabad sedition case. Alpesh, who had been in jail for the last eight months, but was not released immediately as the police subsequently detained him in connection with a separate sedition case in case.